There are millions of people who suffer from Social Anxiety. It is actually very common. It affects about 18% of Americans, however only about one third of those people are even treated for Social Anxiety Disorder. Many times with veterans it goes hand in hand with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, even though they each can exist alone. Those with SAD also often times suffer from depression
What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
SAD is the fear of social settings and interaction with others. Those with SAD often are afraid of judgment, not living up to another’s standard, and embarrassment. At some point in time everyone has a moment of Social Anxiety, but those that truly suffer from the disorder have the anxiety in almost every social situation every day and even go out of their way to avoid the social setting all together. Often those with SAD play the social situation out in their head before it happens and decide they would rather just stay home alone.
This anxiety is often intensified for many vets due to their combat experience. They fear leaving their home because to do so would require them to leave their “safe” zone. They are exposing themselves to unknown variables and possible danger. The unpredictability of the social situation causes great stress and to stay within the confines of their home allows them to be in full control of their environment. It is an irrational fear, though not unfounded.
I hate listing symptoms for different conditions because I get bombarded with responses saying “I have that!” or “I filed a VA claim for that and got denied!” So, I will not list the factors that are used to determine if a person has SAD. I believe as a person who struggles with social anxiety, that you will know before reading this that you have a problem and whether it is service related. Some people only have the fear of speaking in public or being overly shy, which are also forms of Social Anxiety that have absolutely nothing to do with Military Service.
Those with Social Anxiety realize that their fear is irrational, but talking themselves into breaking through their barriers is far harder than it sounds. There is always that resounding “what if” in the back of the mind or the stress of the impression that may have been left after the social interaction is over that keep them from moving forward in life.
It is not something that can be battled alone. Often a support group is needed. You are not alone. There are others just like you, going through what you’re going through, also seeking support.
You can speak with your primary care manager or a mental health professional at your local VA. If things get too overwhelming and you need to speak to someone immediately there is also a crisis hotline.
But support does not stop there. There are many groups within your local community that you can join, many of which are anonymous.
I am attaching additional links for non-VA services. The VA is also a good source, but I know for me I like to step away from the military background and get different perspectives. I grow tired of rehashing my military experiences. I personally feel for myself that by only sharing experiences with prior military, I am dwelling in the past and being constantly reminded of the things I am trying to put behind me. Again, that is my feelings for myself. Everyone has their own way of dealing and working through their issues.
http://www.social-anxiety.com/index.html is a great resource for learning more about social anxiety
http://www.adaa.org/finding-help/getting-support/support-groups provides support groups by support topic and state
http://shyness.meetup.com/ I personally like this site… there is a lot going on in my area
Each VA has a Recreational Office where they supply calendars for different events going on during the month. I personally enjoy going to bingo. It is a very controlled social setting. It is fun and I feel safe, plus I win “books” that are equivalent to cash that I can use in the canteen.